TKO vs KO: The Differences


Fight fans love watching the knockout, whether it’s a TKO or KO. Although, for many, there is some confusion about the difference between a TKO vs KO.

Let’s break down the differences between a TKO vs KO finish in combat sports. The subtle differences between the type of knockouts and their criteria in different combat sports.

TKO vs KO: What Do They Mean?

The TKO and KO are two categories of knockout that have different definitions, which define them. Here are the definitions of a TKO vs KO detailed below.

Technical Knockout (TKO) 

TKO is short for “technical knockout.” A TKO occurs when a fight official steps in and stops a fight. The fighter did not lose consciousness but would’ve likely lost if the ref or doctor didn’t intervene.

Knockout (KO)

A KO or “knockout” is when the fighter is hit and loses consciousness from a strike. Anything from a punch, kick, knee, or elbow, depending on the combat sport.

TKO vs KO Rules Within Boxing 

Each boxing federation has similar criteria on how they define a TKO vs KO. Check out the criteria for defining these knockouts in boxing.

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How a TKO is Assessed in Boxing

There are three ways a boxing match can end in a TKO victory. 

  • Referee Assessment & Decision 
  • Doctor’s Decision
  • Corner Intervention 
  • The Fighter

The referee is the predominant figure of authority in charge of calling a fight off. In boxing, they could step in for anything from a fighter receiving damage or being completely knocked out.

Referees will generally decide to call a fight off after a fighter is knocked down. If the ref feels that the fighter is compromised, they will rule the fight a TKO.

Doctors will also step in and call a fight for damage if they feel a fighter cannot continue. Usually, in between rounds or if the referee calls for assistance.

The corner of both fighters also holds the responsibility of protecting their fighters. They can call the fight if they feel a fighter cannot be won or their fighter is too injured.

But most importantly, the responsibility of the fighters relies on the fighters themselves. But they, more often than not, refuse to quit, which is why the other three must look after them.

Boxing TKO

How a KO is Assessed in Boxing

A KO in boxing is classified in two ways. Either the fighter loses consciousness from a punch, or they don’t get up on the 10-count.  10-count KOs will be considered a knockout even if the fighter is conscious.

TKO vs KO Rules Within MMA

The descriptions of KOs and TKOs in MMA are very similar to boxing, with a few differences. Here is the definition for each type of knockout in MMA.

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How a TKO is Assessed in MMA 

A TKO win in MMA has a similar definition to boxing’s rule but is more vast to cover the different strikes. An MMA fight can be called a TKO in four different scenarios.

  1. Referee Intervention: The referee can step in at any time if he feels a fighter is in danger of being knocked out. 
  2. Fighter’s Condition: A referee can make the judgment call to end a fight if they feel a fighter has received too much damage.
  3. Lack of Response: The referee will call a fight off if they tell a fighter to fight back and don’t respond.
  4. Doctor Stoppage: A doctor can stop a fight the same way in MMA as in boxing.

How a KO is Assessed in MMA

A KO in MMA is defined similarly to what is considered a KO in boxing. The only difference is the variety of strikes that can end a fight in a KO.

In MMA, anything from a punch, kick, knee, elbow, or slam can result in a knockout win. Four more variations of KOs than in boxing.

TKO vs KO: Which is Worse? 

In terms of potential consequences, the TKO is “supposed” be less damaging than a KO. The ref must decide to intervene to keep a TKO from turning into a KO.

However, some studies show accumulative damage from TKO losses could be worse over time.

Who is Responsible For Determining a TKO vs KO?

The responsibility for determining a TKO vs KO is held by many in a combat sports bout. The main difference is the quantity responsible for determining a TKO. 

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In everything from kickboxing, MMA, and boxing, the responsibility of determining a TKO lands on three groups.

  • The Ref
  • Ringside Doctor
  • Fighter’s corners

The ref is the person most responsible for determining a TKO vs KO. It‘s the referee’s job to step in if a fighter cannot defend themselves or is taking too much damage.

The ringside doctor will determine a fight a TKO in two scenarios. Either the ref will ask the doctor to check the fighter, or the doctor checks fighters between rounds. If a fighter is too damaged to continue, it’s the job of the doctor to stop the fight.

Then there’s the fighter’s corner, which are also responsible for protecting their fighters. In between rounds, the main person in the corner can all the fight if they feel their fight is too damaged.

In boxing, the act of throwing in the tail is another way to call a fight off. Admitting defeat on behalf of their fighter in order to protect them.

MMA ref

TKO vs KO: The Main Difference Between Boxing & MMA KO/TKOS

The descriptions for a TKO and KO are nearly the same for boxing and MMA. There are only a handful of differences between these types of knockouts between the sports.

In MMA, you can be knocked out or TKO’d with a variety of strikes. There are also no ten counts in MMA. Once the referee steps in, an MMA fight is over.